Monday, November 17, 2014

back to the land

Awhile ago I published a book on the Catholic rural life movement.  During the first half of the twentieth century more than a few Catholics found "life on the land" quite attractive.  Much more so than the usual urban, "parish factory" Catholic style dominating cities and larger towns in the American northeast.  A great idea, lots of neat eco-Catholic spirituality generated (and all this in the time PRIOR to Vatican II), but it sort of flopped--which I addressed in the book.

OK, so what?

Well, that call back to the land ain't dead--and it can reach corners presumably impervious to the ascetic call.  Check out this story about former-NFL player Jason Brown.  Obviously his previous occupation helps with certain financial realities, but then that's precisely why he's able to farm differently (something the Catholic rural lifers wanted to do, too):
See, his plan for this farm, which he calls "First Fruits Farm," is to donate the first fruits of every harvest to food pantries. Today it's all five acres--100,000 pounds--of sweet potatoes.
"It's unusual for a grower to grow a crop just to give away," said Rebecca Page, who organizes food collection for the needy. "And that's what Jason has done. And he's planning to do more next year."
Brown has 1,000 acres here, which could go a long way toward eliminating hunger in this neck of North Carolina.
"Love is the most wonderful currency that you can give anyone," said Brown.

Decisions and people like this keep the Gospel's vibrancy and dynamism before our eyes.  When we get too comfortable, well, things get mechanical and unloving.  Quite frankly I have struggled with this myself over the years.  Many of my colleagues--people whose work, scholarship, and sense of humor I have admired--have come to begrudge Catholicism (and really Christianity generally, as G. K. Chesteron observed) for its intrinsic difficulty.  It hurts, basically.  So we seek and prefer the easy--and then metalwork the Gospel to fit our desires.  The consequences bother us NOT because, well, we don't care.  Blogger Kevin O'Brien recounts a version of this here.  Good stuff--read it.

Meanwhile, Mr. Brown plans his next crop--to grow and give away.


  1. Very interesting story. I didn't know about the story of Jason Brown, but now that I'm glad that heard it. It's is difficult to live our life in accordance with the Gospels. There is a sacrifice that we are all faced to make, and like your example of Jason Brown, most people don't want to make it because they don't see anything in it for them.

    It's like we say, "Why suffer when we don't have to?" Sad, and yet the reality that we face these days.

  2. I love this story, especially Brown's line about love being a currency that you can give anyone!